Garden Expert Dr. Joe White Connected to People Through Plants and Became a Trusted Plant Guru

"It occurred to me early on that horticulture had a way of touching everybody's life."

January 14, 2001

On this day, The Times out of Shreveport, Louisiana, published a story by Margaret Martin about garden expert Joe White:

Northwest Louisiana gardeners call Joe White when they have a question.

Want to know about pests, soil, or dying plants?

Joe is only a phone call away... for a few more weeks. 

Joe is retiring.

Joe has been an area agent… for the LSU Agricultural Center/Extension Service since 1972.

It was two days after high school graduation when Joe decided what he wanted to do with his life.

Joe said,

'I enjoyed very much working with plants. It occurred to me early on that horticulture had a way of touching everybody's life.'


Joe was fresh from an LSU-Baton Rouge Ph.D. horticulture program when his job was created at the request of the city of Shreveport, and he was hired. He holds a B.S. in agricultural science from Tennessee Tech University and an M.S. in horticulture from the University of Tennessee. The area was lucky to get him.

'His knowledge of horticulture is just astounding,' said Dan Gill, with whom he co-wrote Louisiana Gardener's Guide.

He makes me chuckle. I can't remember a conversation I've had with him that I haven't chuckled.'


Joe founded a Cooperative Extension newsletter that he still edits called Pickles, Peaches, and Pansies.

Joe educates through the Master Gardeners Program and Barnwell Horticultural Programs.

When Joe first arrived, he received from 12,000 to 14,000 calls a year and visited homes and farms to help with soil problems and identify plants and their problems. Media work diminished the calls to 5,000 to 6,000 a year.

Joe’s biggest challenge? He chuckled and said:

'The one thing, and this is crazy, but the one thing I seem unable to convince people to do is plant strawberries in the fall rather than in the spring! I've been harping on this for 28 years, and people still insist on planting them in the spring.'


How has horticulture and gardening changed in 28 years?

More and more people can afford mechanical things like tillers... 
We learned more about fertilizers. 
We now have the slow-release types. In the case of native plants, people are searching for plant materials without having to protect them from pests by using chemicals. 
And I think people are more diet conscious, and herbs are an alternative. 


His best advice to novice gardeners:

Get good sound information from a reliable source. 
Follow guidelines for cultural practices for planting and use recommended varieties for the crops. 
Remember, the All-American varieties have been tested nationwide and have met the requirements to be elevated to that level. 
Ask friends or neighbors what they have grown successfully and what particular variety. That is usually pretty reliable information.

Joe White at a Glance

FAVORITE KIND OF GARDEN: Informal Southern style.

FAVORITE PUBLIC GARDENS: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa., the summer estate of the DuPont family.

I was most impressed with it, the extensiveness of it. And the many different ornamentals, fruits, and vegetables, including a huge indoor area that is landscaped. You'd think you were in the middle of Florida. There is a special children's garden. It was breathtaking.


There are three: hoe, shovel, and rake.

Joe gardens, growing mostly vegetables and fruit trees, also some natives and annuals.
He ticks off the wide range of vegetables he raises:

Definitely tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, okra, onions, sometimes some sweet potatoes, sometimes Irish potatoes, kale, cabbage, radishes, sometimes beets, broccoli, cauliflower, occasionally some squash, sometimes cantaloupe and sometimes watermelons.

He grows a hardy tangerine, apples, and pears if he can beat the squirrels to them, muscadines, grapes, pomegranates, and figs.

And even Joe White sometimes has problems with his garden. He said:

I am very human. That kind of helps me to identify with people when they come in with a problem. I don't know, but that helps communication.


For Joe, leaving is bittersweet.

I love what I do. I really never feel like I am coming to work. I come to serve."  

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Dr. Joe White
Dr. Joe White

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